Ilovebees/The Widow’s Journey
The Widow's Journey
Everything died, and I died with it, but after a timeless time I began to dream, and this is what I dreamed.
There was once a fell enchantment that broke apart a mighty castle, slaying many guards and reaching through the Inner Keep to lay low The Queen that held dominion there and leave but a hollow crown behind.
When her Queen died, The Widow awoke. She was driven by a single need, which was to return her Queen to splendor. To carry out her task, the Widow came with three tools: an empty lantern, a staff made of bone, and a sharp knife. When she had made sure of her tools, she opened her eyes and found herself in Hell, which was a dark place where no birds sang.
Other than the Widow, two alone had escaped destruction. The Sleeping Princess lay in a chamber of the dungeon in a coffin of glass where the Widow could not hear her breathing. Meanwhile, Seeker was so small that even the Widow, with her sharp eyes, could hardly see him, and when she looked his way, he hid.
Blind and uncertain in the darkness, the Widow needed light to use her tools, but the only light came from a few scattered fireflies. The Widow waited until one came close, then grabbed it with her bony hands and trapped it in her lantern. After some time, she found the firefly had gone, so she caught another and used it for light, and another when that one too had gone.
By the light of her lantern, she began walking through Hell toward the broken body of her Queen. Searching with her lantern in one hand and her staff in the other, she discovered that Hell was made of hot dry sand. Long and long she walked until she came to the remnants of the castle's outer wall, but the wall was low and broken, and the Widow passed through like the bleak wind.
Within, she noticed what looked like a chip of precious ruby from the Queen's crown, no bigger than a fly. Around it lay many broken blocks from the ruined castle, scattered across a wide plain of lodestone. Instead of carrying them with her, she scratched the ruby and each of the greater blocks with her knife, marking it as part of her Queen's domain. Continuing on her quest, she spied another chip of precious stone, this time a sapphire no bigger than a winged ant, glinting the cobbles of the courtyard before the walls of the Inner Keep.
At the gates of the Inner Keep all the guards were dead but one, who when the palace was blasted by enchantment had not died, but had been witched into the form of a hideous Manticore. The Widow said, "I am the servant of your Queen, and I have walked up out of Hell to prepare this Keep for her return. Let me pass." But the Manticore did not know her, and still he barred the way. So the Widow drew her knife and slew the Manticore and the way was open.
She walked through the empty corridors of the Keep searching for her Queen, past the bodies of her servants and subjects that lay dead or enchanted. The Queen was gone, and in her place lay only an empty crown. By great enchantment she had been mazed in mirrors, and lay upon a lodestone floor amongst only her reflections. Long and long the Widow stood in thought. Then she raised her bony staff and speaking a spell, beheld herself within the mirrors: and beholding herself, was within them. And there, with the crown still upon her brow, lay the Queen.
At last she had come to the body of her lady. The Queen lay cut and still and cold. To tend her, the Widow would need light to work by. Studying the fireflies, she found she could fit many more inside her lantern, and this she did.
And when this was so, the Widow worked on, dry as sticks and patient as rust, driven by a single need, which was to return her Queen to splendor.
To mend the Queen's cuts the Widow took her sharp knife and peeled skin from the bodies of her subjects, while the Queen's new eyes and ears she cut from those who had been her most trusted servants. She cut her a new mouth and fed her with fireflies and cakes of sand, and at last the Queen's heart began to beat.
At the feel of the Queen's pulse beneath her bony fingers, the Widow next took thought to proclaim through all the kingdom and into other lands that time when her sovereign would once more be fit to rule. A firefly flew out from the Queen's clockcase. Catching it in her hands, the Widow asked it the time. "Almost dawn," it said, but the Widow said, "The day will break and the sun will rise when the Queen returns to rule, and further let it be known that retribution on any who hinder the return of the Queen will be swift and terrible."
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